Fixture: London Irish vs Leicester Tigers
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 4
Date: Saturday 9th October 2021
Stadium: Brentford Community Stadium
London Irish host Steve Borthwick’s Leicester Tigers at the Brentford Community Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Heading into Round 4, Tigers lead the way at the top of the Gallagher Premiership table with a 100 per-cent record to date, picking up two additional try bonus points against Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester Rugby.
Their win in Round 3 last weekend came against Saracens, via a penalty try awarded with the clock in the red zone, when the visitors were adjudged to have collapsed a maul, resulting in a narrow 13-12 win for the hosts.
Head Coach Borthwick gave new signing Hosea Saumaki his Premiership debut against Sarries in that encounter, with Freddie Burns, Eli Snyman, Marco van Staden and Francois van Wyk also joining the cast at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road stadium this summer.
If recent results from both sides and last season’s meetings are anything to go by, match-goers at the Brentford Community Stadium are in for a treat this weekend.
Leicester were the first visitors to the BCS last November, as Paddy Jackson kicked 17 points in a 22-9 home win, whilst in the reverse fixture, Tigers narrowly edged out the Exiles, by a point, 33-32.
The boss – Steve Borthwick
Former Bath and Saracens lock Steve Borthwick took the reins at Leicester Tigers at the start of the 2020/21 season – and led the club to a sixth place finish, ending the campaign with 54 points, six ahead of London Irish.
Borthwick, who has steered Leicester to three consecutive wins for the first time since April 2018, also took his side to the brink of their first European Challenge Cup last term, only to lose 18-17 to Montpellier.
In his playing days, the 57-time capped England international won the 2007/08 Challenge Cup with Bath in his final season with the West Country side, going on to win the Premiership title for the Men in Black against Leicester in 2011.
The 42-year-old’s coaching past includes spells under Eddie Jones both in the Japan and England national set-up's, combined with time as a Forwards Coach for Bristol Bears in the Championship.
One to Watch – Freddie Steward
Freddie Steward has already cemented himself as a regular in the Tigers back-line at the tender age of 20.
The Leicester Tigers Academy product has impressed so far this season, ranking in the top-ten players in the Premiership in metres gained, with 201.
He scored his first try of the season and set up Matt Scott to touch down on the opening weekend against Exeter Chiefs, an afternoon he described as ‘a big first step’ for the club.
The full-back, whose aerial capabilities under the high ball will look to cause problems on Saturday afternoon, is joint-second in the league in clean breaks with four, beating six defenders and also completing two offloads.
Eddie Jones awarded the youngster with his first two England caps in the 2021 summer tests and Steward was also named in Jones’ most recent training squad.
Classic Encounter – Leicester Tiger 24, London Irish 24 – November 5th 2011 – Aviva Premiership
Bonfire Night in 2011 was indeed one to remember for the Exiles faithful, with a comeback draw against Leicester Tigers in the East Midlands.
Shontayne Hape dotted down for the first five points of the game, but a penalty try awarded after a set-piece collapse and eight points from the boot of Toby Flood put Tigers ahead at the break.
More points from Flood and a Tom Croft try put the hosts into a commanding 17-point lead, but Adam Thomptone and Tom Homer’s rangey kicking dragged Irish back into it, as Matt Garvey laid claim to a Jamie Gibson charge down to score.
Homer, who was the Premiership’s top points scorer that season with 278, drew the side’s level with the extras two minutes from time, before even more late dramatics courtesy of Flood, who put a late drop goal attempt to the right of the posts.
Tries: Penalty try, Tom Croft
Conversion: Toby Flood
Pens: Toby Flood (4)
Tries: Shontayne Hape, Adam Thompstone, Matt Garvey
Conversions: Tom Homer (3)
Penalties: Tom Homer
In what has been Leicester Tigers’ best start to a season since 2015/16, Steve Borthwick remains cautious on not getting caught up with the hype surrounding his side at the moment ahead of their trip to face London Irish at the Brentford Community Stadium.
“I tend not to look back and tend not to look too far forward, so I think I've said to you before that once the final whistle is blown my heads turned to the next game,” he said.
“We play London Irish away, and that's where my focus is.
“I think if you get caught thinking too far back, you'll end up staying in the history – if you think too far forward, you'll miss what's right in front of you, so I keep it very, very simple.”
(Preview compiled by Ryan Fitzgerald Nolan)